2 Kings 24-25

Full Circle.

“Then all the people of Judah, from the least to the greatest, as well as the army commanders, fled in panic to Egypt, for they were afraid of what the Babylonians would do to them.” ­– 2 Kings 25:26 NLT

Do you remember how this story all started? The descendants of Jacob had been living in the land of Egypt as slaves. They had grown and multiplied so greatly that the Egyptians had become fearful of their sheer numbers and were making their lives increasingly difficult. God heard their cries and sent Moses to them as a deliverer. God miraculously freed them from their slavery to Egypt and led them to a land He had promised them – the land of Canaan. On the way there, they whined and moaned about the difficulty of their journey, their lack of food and water, and the leadership of Moses and Aaron. They even expressed regret that they had ever left Egypt, begging Moses to take them back. But God continued to put up with their bickering and complaining, providing them with manna and quail to eat and water to drink. He even kept their sandals from wearing out as they walked across the wilderness. While the first generation were required to wander in the wilderness until they died off for refusing to obey God’s command and occupy the land, the second generation actually made it in. They began to do what God had told them to do, and started amassing victories over the nations that lived in the land. But they never did obey God completely. They began to intermarry with the pagan nations and worship their gods. God gave them Judges to rule over them and rescue them when they got in trouble for their sinful lifestyles. He then gave them kings to act as His vice-regents, ruling on His behalf. But most of them turned out to be godless, rebelling against the very one who had placed them on the throne in the first place. Eventually, the kingdom split in two, dividing up the land and the people, and leaving the people of God in a constant state of civil war. And now we come to the end. The northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive to Assyria years before, and now Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians. A remnant had been left in the land and been allowed to live off the produce of what was still a very productive land. Yet, they decided to rebel once again, killing Gedaliah, the governor the Babylonians had put over them. Then out of fear of retribution, they all fled to – of all places – Egypt. The story has come full circle. They are right back where they started from. Yes, some of them are in Assyria and some are in Babylon, but a small remnant find themselves in the land of Egypt, the very place God had delivered their forefathers from all those years ago.

Things had come full circle. For all intents and purposes, the land of promise was now empty again. The people of God were living in exile in Assyria, Babylon and Egypt. But God was not done with them. He continued to speak to them through His prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel, men who were living in exile along with the people. These men would continue to call the people to repentance and remind them that God was going to return them to the land one day. He would remain faithful to His covenant promises. A descendant of David would someday sit on the throne in Jerusalem. The city would be rebuilt and the land reoccupied.

But how sobering to think about these people returning to the very place where God had once delivered them. They had gone back instead of forward. They had reverted to their old way of life. God had delivered, but the digressed. He had released them from slavery, but they willingly returned. And isn’t that what many of us do in our lives today? God delivers us from sinful habits and unhealthy lifestyles, only to watch us willingly return right back to where we started. We go back to the beginning and wallow in the same addictions and habits we once struggled with and He delivered us from. Rather than trust Him, we return to what was comfortable. We forget how miserable we were before. Somehow we convince ourselves to believe that the past is preferable to our present circumstances. Yet God is calling us to trust Him. He wants us to remain faithful to Him, regardless of what we see going on around us. He wants us to stop rebelling and start relying. Going back to Egypt is the easy way out. It appears to offer us a way of escape and a respite from the difficulties in our lives. But God wants us to trust Him with our present and our future. He wants us to rest in the fact that He has a plan for our lives and He knows what is best. Running away to Egypt is not the answer. Returning to our past is not the solution. Trusting Him is.

Father, it is so easy to run away to Egypt – to return to what we know best – our old habits, sins, addictions and hangups. But keep us trusting in You regardless of how things may look around us. Egypt will always be there, tempting us with apparent safety and security, but never let us forget that You set us from those things to which we are tempted to return to. You have a greater future planned for us. But we have to trust You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 22-23

Reform Is Costly.

“Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.” ­– 2 Kings 23:25 NLT

Josiah was considered the greatest king. Those are pretty high words of praise, considering the reigns of David and Solomon. But the author of the book of 2 Kings believed Josiah set the standard for kings. He inherited a situation that was less than perfect. He became king at a time when the nation was in disarray spiritually, morally, and politically. He stepped into a very toxic environment and was expected to rule – at the tender age of eight! And by the time he was 18 years old, Josiah began to make a difference. He began by trying to repair the Temple, which had suffered from years of neglect, abuse, and plunder in order to pay tributes owed to enemies of Judah. Josiah instituted a major restoration project on the Temple. While this was going on, they discovered a scroll containing the book of the Law. This may have been the entire Pentateuch or possibly just the book of Deuteronomy, but irregardless, it contained the Law and the covenant that God had made with the people of Israel years earlier when they had left Egypt.

When Josiah heard the words contained in this scroll, he was blown away. He tore his clothes in despair, and knowing that God had to be angry with them for their neglect of and disobedience to the Law, he appealed to God. The covenant that God had made with Moses back at Mount Sinai had been conditional. God had said, “Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6 NLT). Years later, Moses would reaffirm this covenant with the people, as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land. “You must be careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God, following his instructions in every detail. Stay on the path the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy” (Deuteronomy 5:32 NLT). But Josiah knew that the people had failed to keep the commands of God. They had lived in open rebellion to God. And Josiah had not missed the words written in the book of the Law that said, “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed. Just as the Lord has destroyed other nations in your path, you also will be destroyed if you refuse to obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20 NLT).

So Josiah humbled himself before God. He repented. And because he did, God promised not to bring destruction on Judah during his lifetime. And as a result, Josiah began a massive reform effort to stem the tide of wickedness and rebellion in Judah. He could have easily just waited out his reign, knowing that he was safe. But he wanted to make a difference. He wanted to leave Judah in a better state than when he inherited it. He took the words of Deuteronomy 6 seriously. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT). Josiah had all the people assembled and then personally read the book of the Law to them. He reminded them of their covenant with God. Then he began to do what he could do to make a difference. And he had his work cut out for him. This was not going to be easy. It was going to cost him. He would not be popular. But he didn’t care. Just look at some of the things he did:

  • He removed from the Temple all the articles used for worshiping Baal, Asherah, and all the powers of heaven.
  • He did away with all the idolatrous priests.
  • He removed the Asherah pole from the Lord’s Temple.
  • He destroyed the living quarters of the male and female shrine prostitutes that were inside the Temple.
  • He defiled the pagan shrines.
  • He defiled the altar of Topheth, where the people offered child sacrifices.
  • He removed the horse statues dedicated to sun worship from the entrance to the Temple.
  • He burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.
  • He tore down pagan altars on the palace roof erected by his predecessors.
  • He destroyed altars Manasseh had built in the Temple courtyard.
  • He desecrated pagan shrines east of Jerusalem that Solomon had built.
  • He had the sacred pillars smashed.
  • He tore down the pagan altars at Bethel.
  • He even destroyed that pagan shrines and buildings in Samaria, in the northern kingdom.
  • He had the pagan priests executed on their own altars.
  • Then he re-instituted the celebration of Passover.

Just take a look at that list. What a picture of the wickedness of the people of God. They were so far from being a holy nation. They were infested with idolatry. It was everywhere. They had taken unfaithfulness to a whole new level. Everywhere Josiah turned, he found altars, shrines, temples and symbols of their rebellion to God. He was inundated, but not incapacitated. He was willing to do something about it and he did. To took steps to toward positive change. And he probably made some enemies along the way. Not everyone was on board with his reforms. Not everybody agreed with what he was doing. But Josiah was going to do what God wanted. He was going to follow God’s will, not anybody else’s. Reform is costly. Obedience has a price attached to it. But for Josiah, it was worth it.

Father, too often I am unwilling to pay the price that true reform requires. I want to make petty changes that require little of me, when what I need is costly change. Give me the strength to examine my own life and see where true change needs to be made. Open my eyes to the idols in my own life so that I might remove them. Don’t let me be satisfied with surface reform. Help me to make sweeping changes that result in a life of holiness. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 21

From Good to Worst.

“King Manasseh of Judah has done many detestable things. He is even more wicked than the Amorites, who lived in this land before Israel. He has caused the people of Judah to sin with his idols.” ­– 2 Kings 21:11 NLT

He was only 12 years old when he took the throne. But he reigned for 55 years. And they would prove to be five of the worst decades Judah had ever seen. While Manasseh’s father Hezekiah had been one of the few good kings Judah had seen since the kingdom of Israel split in two, Manasseh didn’t follow in his footsteps. In fact, he reverse engineered most of the reforms Hezekiah brought about. We’re told that Hezekiah “removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it” (2 Kings 18:4 NLT). Yet Manasseh “rebuilt the pagan shrines hsi father, Hezekiah, had destroyed” (2 Kings 21:3 NLT). Not only that, he constructed altars for Baal, the god of the Canaanites, and worshiped Asherah, the mistress of Baal. He went so far as to make a carved image of Asherah and have it set up right in the Temple. He practiced sorcery and divination. He offered up his own son as a human sacrifice to the false gods he worshiped. While Hezekiah had been faithful and obedient, Manasseh proved to be unfaithful and extremely rebellious. He was the antithesis of his father, leading the people of Judah into a lifestyle of sin that didn’t just rival that of the pagan nations, it surpassed them.

And the result of his sin? The judgment of God. God would treat Judah with the same standard He had used on Israel. They had already been taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Now Judah, the slightly more faithful southern nation, would suffer the same consequences for their sinfulness as Israel had. God warned, “I will judge Jerusalem by the same standard I used for Samaria and the same measurec I used for the family of Ahab. I will wipe away the people of Jerusalem as one wipes a dish and turns it upside down” (2 Kings 21:13 NLT). But this was not a knee-jerk reaction on the part of God. He was not responding rashly or impetuously. He had been putting up with this kind of behavior for a long, long time. He makes that point painfully clear. “For they have done great evil in my sight and have angered me ever since their ancestors came out of Egypt” (2 Kings 21:15 NLT). This had been going on since the day He delivered the descendants of Jacob from Egypt. All throughout the wilderness the people had whined, complained, bickered, rebelled, disobeyed, and proven themselves to be highly capable of spiritual adultery. When they arrived at the Promised Land, they refused to go in, failing to trust God and suffering the results of their disobedience: 40 years of wandering in the wilderness until that generation died off. When the second generation finally did enter the land, they proved to be disobedient and unfaithful again. Theirs was a history of disobedience and unfaithfulness. And God had had enough. Manasseh was the final straw. And his son, Amon, would follow in his footsteps. Like father, like son.

Had Hezekiah proven to be a bad father? We don’t know. Had he been so busy instituting reforms in the nation that he forgot about reforming his son at home? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But it is a reminder that each of us has a responsibility to make sure that our efforts on behalf of God cannot overlook or overshadow the responsibilities He has given us as parents, spouses, employees and citizens. What good does it do if we reform the nation, but lose our kids in the process? What good does it do if we travel thousands of miles across the world to witness to a people group who speak a language we don’t know, but we fail to share the gospel with our own children? What’s the point in impacting the culture if we have no impact on our own families? You see this pattern over and over again in the Scriptures. Good, godly parents leaving behind less-than-faithful children. The task of reforming the culture begins at home. Our children are the future of this culture. Before we get busy removing the idols from the culture, we have to work at removing the idols from our childrens’ hearts. Over in Psalm 78 we read these sobering words, “What we have heard and learnedthat which our ancestors have told us – we will not hide from theirdescendants. We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts,about his strength and the amazing things he has done” (Psalm 78:3-4 NET). We have a job to do. We have a generation to influence. Let it begin at home.

Father, in my zeal to serve You, never let me forget that You have given me children to raise, nurture, and teach. Sometimes I feel so inadequate for the task. I feel unqualified and overwhelmed. But don’t let me get side-tracked and spend all my time making a difference in the world, while I neglect the ones who live in my home. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 20

Speak Up. God Is Listening.

“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you.” ­– 2 Kings 20:5b NLT

God is listening. But does He hear anything? Not if we don’t pray. Even God can’t hear what isn’t spoken. Yes, He knows our hearts, but He desires to hear our thoughts expressed in words – spoken directly to Him. When Hezekiah suddenly became ill, he was told by the prophet Isaiah to get his affairs in order because this illness was irreversible and he would not recover. Hezekiah’s response? “He turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord” (2 Kings 20:2 NLT). Even though Isaiah had told him this news was directly from God, Hezekiah didn’t let that stop him from crying out to God. He reminded God he had been faithful and single-minded in his devotion to Him. He didn’t specifically ask God to heal him, but he just asked God to remember him. The news he had received was difficult and devastating. So he called out to the only one who could do anything about it. Hezekiah prayed and God heard.

And God gave Hezekiah an answer. He told Hezekiah that He had heard his prayer and seen his tears. He was listening and watching. And as a result, He was going to extend Hezekiah’s life by 15 years. Then He added that He would defend Jerusalem from the threats of attack by Assyria. God showed compassion. He heard the prayer and saw the tears of Hezekiah and He answered. Now is this a prayer principle we can apply to our lives and it will always work out just the way it did for Hezekiah? Probably not. God is not obligated to always do what we ask Him to do. In fact, Hezekiah never really asked for healing. He simply pleaded for God to remember him. The real message in this story is that God hears us when we call out to Him. He is always listening. He is always watching. He is looking at our hearts and how we respond to the difficulties of life. Do we despair or do we call out to Him? Do we appeal to the mercy and compassion of God when faced with insurmountable problems? Do we dare ask God to remember us and reflect on our own faithfulness and single-minded devotion to Him? Now, I don’t think Hezekiah was nearly as faithful and single-minded as he thought he was, and I don’t think that had anything to do with God’s healing of him. In fact, God said He was going to heal him and defend Jerusalem “for my own honor and for the sake of my servant David” (2 Kings 20:6 NLT). This had more to do with God keep His promises than acknowledging Hezekiah’s righteous life.

But we CAN appeal to God’s mercy and compassion. He loves us. He cares deeply for us. He is constantly listening and wants to hear from us. But He can’t hear us if we don’t pray. He can’t answer if we don’t ask. He can’t respond if we don’t request. Ask God to remember you today. Ask Him to call you to mind and reflect on you. To think about you. To concentrate His thoughts on you. He will. Because He cares. And whatever He does in response will be just the right thing for you, because God knows what is best. He will for you is always right. So don’t tell Him what to do, just ask Him to remember you. Then leave the rest up to Him.

Father, remember me today. Think about me. Reflect on my situation. Look down from heaven and see what is going on in my life. You know what is best. I don’t. You know what I need. I don’t. So I am going to try and talk to You more. Because You are listening. You can’t hear me if I don’t speak. So I am going to speak up – to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 18:9-19:37

Counterfeit Hopes. Substitute Blessings.

“Make peace with me—open the gates and come out. Then each of you can continue eating from your own grapevine and fig tree and drinking from your own well. Then I will arrange to take you to another land like this one—a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey. Choose life instead of death!” ­– 2 Kings 18:31-32 NLT

They always sounds so good – the promises of the enemy that is. He never comes to us telling the truth, but always veils the truth in subtle lies that sound so appealing. He knows what we want and he offers it to us – for a price. The enemy’s promises always come with a price. And that price is surrender. We must give up and give in to his desires. We must do as he says. Sure, he promises us blessing and abundance, happiness and hope, but first we must give turn away from God and turn to him. We see this scene lived out in real life in the story of Hezekiah. This time, the enemy comes in the form of Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Ten years earlier he had defeated the northern kingdom of Israel, sacking the capital city of Samaria and taking the people into exile. Now he has come to besiege Jerusalem. His troops have camped outside the city walls and he has sent one of his officials to demand that Hezekiah surrender the city and its people to Assyria. King Hezekiah has mistakenly believed that he could buy off the Assyrians by paying the tribute money he had been refusing to pay. Eleven tons of silver and one ton of gold later, the Assyrians are still there. They had no intention of leaving. They would not be bought off with gold and silver.

When Hezekiah stubbornly refuses to surrender, the Assyrian envoy makes his appeal directly to the people. He warns them not to listen to Hezekiah and not to trust in God’s deliverance. No gods had ever been able to stand up to the power of Assyria, and Yahweh would be no different. “Don’t let him fool you into trusting in the Lord by saying, ‘The Lord will surely rescue us. This city will never fall into the hands of the Assyrian king!’” (2 Kings 18:30 NLT). Then the enemy does what he always does. He makes a promising offer. He appeals to their desires. He offers them peace. He invites them to open the gates and come out. Let down their defenses. Trust him. And if they do, he will let them continue to enjoy life just like it is – full of blessing and abundance. Nothing will change. There will be no cost to their compromise. Then he subtly hints at what comes next. He will arrange to take them to another land – but one that has all the blessings and abundance of the Promised Land. He even uses terminology similar to that which God used when He told the people of Israel about the Promised Land years earlier. He says it will be “a land of grain and new wine, bread and vineyards, olive groves and honey” (2 Kings 18:32 NLT). His offer sounds eerily similar to the one God had made when He had delivered the people out of bondage in Egypt. But the enemy offers them another promised land. He offers them counterfeit hopes and substitute blessings – replacements for the promises of God. And his offer is tempting. It always is.

But the enemy’s offers never come through. They never deliver. Oh, they may for a season, but then the truth sets in. His promised land always ends up being nothing more than bondage. His blessings always turn into curses. His abundance dries up. His hope evaporates. His promises fade. And we are always left disappointed. But God’s promises never fail. He always delivers. If we will trust Him and refuse to listen to the lies of the enemy, He will always come through for us. He did for Judah. He destroyed 185,000 of the enemy’s troops in one night, without a single soldier from Judah having to lift a finger. God sent the Ethiopians against the Assyrians, forcing Sennacherib to return home with his troops to defend his own land. And when he arrived there Sennacherib was murdered by his own sons. Not a single arrow was fired against Judah. Not a single siege tower was built.  Because the people listened to God and not the enemy, they were delivered. Never buy into the counterfeit hopes and substitute blessings of the enemy. No matter how good they sound.

Father, the enemy is always out there offering us his version of Your truth. He wants to promise us what only You can give. And sometimes we listen and give in. The results are always the same. Disappointment and disillusionment. Open our eyes and help us to see the truth. Help us to trust You and reject the lies of the enemy. Only You can provide hope, joy, fulfillment, safety, blessing and abundance. Your promises never fail. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 18:1-8; Psalm 48

The Secret To Spiritual Success.

“Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses.” ­– 2 Kings 18:5-6 NLT

What do you want said of you when you die? I once heard it said that we are writing our eulogies right now – as we live our lives. What we do right now will determine how we are remembered. Our actions and attitudes will form the opinions of others and influence their memories regarding us. So if I hope to be remembered as a godly man, I must live like one now. My spiritual legacy is being made with each breath I take and every move I make. We see this truth lived out in the life of Hezekiah. After reading the stories of countless kings in both Judah and Israel, we come to the brief review of the life of Hezekiah, the king of Judah. He came to the throne at the age of 25 and took over the throne from his father Ahaz. Hezekiah did not have a great role model to follow in Ahaz. Ahaz did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Instead, he led the people to worship false gods, even sacrificing one of his sons to a pagan deity. His legacy was lousy. He did not leave his son with an example worth following. But for some reason, Hezekiah was able to remain faithful to God and did not follow his father’s example.

Hezekiah gives us hope that we can break the cycle of sin that exists in some of our families. We do not have to live out the sins of our fathers and mothers. We can remain faithful to God even when we are raised in environments that are faithless. We can begin a new legacy. We can leave our children and our grandchildren a new example to follow. Hezekiah became a powerful reformer, restoring the worship of God in Judah and restoring the Temple and reestablishing the sacrificial system God had commanded. He put his trust in God, not alliances with pagan nations. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything – every area of his life – no compartmentalization. He obeyed the commands of God, and not just when it was convenient or easy. And as a result the Lord was with him. God gave him success in all that he did. God blessed him. When it would have been easy for Hezekiah to follow his father’s example and continue his legacy of self-centeredness and self-destructiveness, Hezekiah charted a different course. He determined to follow after God. He chose to live a godly life in the midst of a godless generation. And he left a legacy of faithfulness, trust, and obedience. What will your legacy be? You are building it right now. Will you be pleased with the results when you are finished?

Father, help me remember that I am building my legacy right now. With every decision, action, and attitude, I am writing the eulogy of my life. I will be remembered for who I am right now. The memories my children have of me are being forged right now. What people recall about me will be based on how I live from this moment forward. May I be a man of faith and faithfulness like Hezekiah. A reformer, not a follower. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 16-17

They Would Not Listen.

“But the Israelites would not listen. They were as stubborn as their ancestors who had refused to believe in the Lord their God.” ­– 2 Kings 17:14 NLT

The 17th chapter of 2 Kings contains a summary of all that had happened to the nation of Israel since the split of the kingdom after Solomon’s reign. It covers the time all the way up to the defeat of the northern kingdom by Assyria and their deportation. And it sums up their circumstances quite succinctly. They refused to listen to God. They refused to obey God. They refused to believe God. They rejected His commands and despised all His warnings of coming judgment. Instead of worshiping God, they worshiped worthless idols – man-made creations that could do nothing for them. They were the chosen people of God who refused to believe in and trust God. So their fate was sealed. Their destiny was determined by their callous treatment of God.

How many lessons are there in these passages for us to learn? Or will we simply look at the people of Israel, shake our heads, and wonder how they could have turned their backs on God so easily? The truth is, we treat God with the same degree of disrespect and disbelief every day. We doubt His Word. We disobey His commands. We turn to other gods instead of Him. We place our trust in other things besides Him. We regularly show Him disrespect, stubbornly resisting His will because we think we know better. Like the Israelites, we can become cocky and complacent, resting on our relationship as His children, confident that we are safe because we are saved. We have our ticket stamped and our place in His kingdom secured, so we think we can make our obedience optional. We treat His grace, mercy and forgiveness flippantly, living lives of our own choosing, highly confident that He loves us and would never forsake us. And He does and He won’t. But that does not mean God will not discipline us. He loves us too much to allow us to live in disobedience. He cares too much for us to allow us to live in disbelief and indifference to His revealed will. We are His representatives on this planet. We are His hands and feet. We are to be a living testimony of His power to the lost world around us. When we claim the name of Christ, but live in disobedience to God, we mock the very name of God and take the sacrifice of Christ’s death lightly. Like Ahaz, we can make the worship of God all about us. Ahaz took the bronze altar from the Temple and began to use it for His own personal worship. He replaced God’s will with his own. He made worship all about him and not about God. Worship became a tool to get what he wanted. It self-focused, rather than God-focused. And we run the same risk today. When we begin to care more about what we want than what God wants, we are headed for trouble. When we begin to listen to our own desires instead of God’s commands, we are on shaky ground. When we doubt God but trust in ourselves, we can and should expect the discipline of God. He loves us, but He will not allow us to dishonor His name and disrespect His will. God will not be mocked. He is calling us to obey Him. Not so He will love us more, but out of love for all He has done for us. He is calling us to honor Him with our actions, not so He will be impressed with our obedience, but as proof of our belief in Him. Are you listening? Do you hear Him? Will you obey Him?

Father, sometimes we are hard of hearing. You are speaking to us through Your Word, but we refuse to listen. We hear, but we don’t want to obey. We think our way is better. We think our will is more important than Yours. Open our ears and help us hear, but also give us the determination to obey You. You know best. You have our best interest at heart. May we trust You more and more.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Chronicles 26

A Self-Made Man.

“But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall.” ­– 2 Chronicles 26:16 NLT

King Uzziah was a successful king. Like Solomon before him, he seemed to have it all: power, prestige, possessions, and an ability to succeed at just about anything he put his mind to. He experienced great military victories. He oversaw significant construction projects. He had abundant flocks and herds, vineyards and farms. His standing army consisted of 307,500 elite troops. Civic improvement projects were everywhere in Judah, thanks to Uzziah. We are told that “his fame spread far and wide … and he became very powerful” (2 Chronicles 26:15b NLT). This guy had it all, including a reign that lasted five decades.

But Uzziah had one major problem: Pride. He failed to recognize and realize that his fame, power, and success were the direct result of God’s intervention in his life. He took the throne at 16 and was mentored by Zechariah, “who taught him to fear God” (2 Chronicles 26:5 NLT). And it seems that Uzziah did fear and seek God. And as long as he did, God gave him success. We are told that “God helped him in his wars against the Philistines (2 Chronicles 26:7 NLT). His fame and power were from God, “…for the Lord gave him marvelous help” (2 Chronicles 26:15b NLT). He owed all his power, success, fame, and wealth to God. But rather than thank God and acknowledge His hand in his life, Uzziah sinned against Him. He became so convinced of his own significance and self-importance that he thought he was above God’s law. He didn’t have to live according to God’s rules. As a result, he entered the temple of God and attempted to offer sacrifices on his own. This was clearly a violation of God’s law and when the priests tried to stop him, he became angry. He threw a temper-tantrum right in the temple. As he held an incense burner in his hand, he raged at the priests for attempting to stop him from doing what HE wanted to do. It’s funny that the burning of the incense was supposed to be an act of worship, a pleasing aroma to God, but here was Uzziah, throwing a fit in the temple – an action that was anything but pleasing to God. As a result of his actions, Uzziah is struck with leprosy. He is rushed out of the temple and is quarantined in a separate house for the rest of his life. He is no longer able to enter the temple of God. When he dies he is buried in a separate field, apart from the rest of the kings. His pride led to his destruction (Proverbs 16:18). His failure to show gratitude to God for His providential participation in his life resulted in Uzziah’s prideful arrogance and ultimate fall. He bought the lie that he was a self-made man. He ended up worshiping self more than he worshiped God. He respected his own wishes more than he did those of God. His will was more important than God’s. What a temptation for each of us. God is active in each of our lives. Any success we have is a direct result of His hand. Any joy we experience is from Him. All that we have comes from Him. Even the next breath we take. And when we fail to recognize His provision, we can begin to think that we are self-made and self-sustaining, leading to a love of self that is ultimately self-destructive. “As long as the king sought guidance from the Lord, God gave him success” (2 Chronicles 26:5b NLT). Keep your eyes focused on God, not self. Seek Him. Serve Him. Obey Him. Thank Him. You are nothing without Him.

Father, how easy it is to believe the lie that I have made myself what I am. I can take credit for my own successes, then blame You for my failures. I want to think that I am something special, when in reality, I am nothing without You. Open my eyes to the reality of Your providential presence in my life each and every day.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 15

The Inevitability of Instability.

“Then Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah, assassinated him in public, and became the next king.” ­– 2 Kings 15:10 NLT

When the worship of God takes a back seat, either in the life of an individual or a nation, instability becomes the norm. Without God as the firm foundation upon which to build a life or a nation, everything becomes subject to change without notice. Respect for authority, moral absolutes, love of man, and the fear of God become optional and any sense of continuity and cohesiveness vanishes. From the day that Jeroboam led Israel to separate themselves from Judah, the worship of God had taken a backseat. He had erected idols to replace God and places of worship to substitute for the Temple in Jerusalem. And every king after him followed in his footsteps of rebellion and the rejection of God. In this one chapter we see six different kings reign over Israel in a 42 and a half year time period. In comparison, Uzziah reigned 52 years in Judah. Israel was marked by instability and divisiveness. Of the six kings mentioned in this chapter, Zechariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, and Pekah all have their reigns ended by assassination. Each is characterized as having done evil in the Lord’s sight, and each is killed by his successor. Their reigns were short and ended sadly, and were characterized by a lack of respect and reverence for God.

Interestingly, in Judah you have two kings who reigned during this same time period. One was Uzziah and the other was his son, Jotham. In contrast to the kings of Israel, both Uzziah and Jotham “did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight” (2 Kings 15:3, 34 NLT). While they were far from perfect or consistent in their faithfulness, they sought to serve God and make Him a high priority in their lives and kingdoms. As a result, their reigns were long and marked by a greater sense of peace and prosperity. Had they both fulfilled God’s command to destroy all the shrines and high places dedicated to the worship of other gods, who knows how their reigns might have gone. But in spite of their inconsistency, they did try to lead their people to remain faithful to God, and as a result, their reigns were marked by a sense of stability.

When we refuse to honor God in our lives, instability is inevitable. We lose our sense of purpose and calling. We leave ourselves open to attack and distraction from the temptations of this world. Godlessness can be just as much a reality for the Christian as it is for the non-Christian. We can live our lives like practical atheists, even though we say we are worshipers of God. If we refuse to listen to Him, seek Him, worship Him, or give Him the honor and respect He deserves and demands, our lives will be marked by a sense of instability and fearfulness. Life will lack meaning and a sense of purpose. Our hard work will become fruitless, our best efforts, futile. Without God at the center of our lives, our lives will lack focus and stability.

Father, help me to keep my life focused on You. I want to keep You at the center of my life and at the heart of my worship. Forgive me for all the times I replace You with other things or other people. I long to establish my life on You – the solid rock.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

2 Kings 14

The Self-Destructive Nature of Self-Importance.

“You have indeed defeated Edom, and you are very proud of it. But be content with your victory and stay at home! Why stir up trouble that will only bring disaster on you and the people of Judah?” ­– 2 Kings 14:10 NLT

Pride goes before the fall. Or something like that. We all love paraphrasing this message from the book of Proverbs. It actually says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT). But regardless of exactly what it says, we enjoy sharing the basic gist of it – especially in retrospect – when someone we know, and usually don’t like, has experienced a failure of some kind. It’s a very biblical way of saying, “I told you so!” Whatever negative circumstances this person has experienced was well-deserved. They got what was coming to them. Now while we probably misapply this verse more than any other, there is some truth to the idea that pride is destructive. And behind all pride is a sense of self-importance that blinds us to the danger we face when we think too highly of ourselves. Paul provided this warning against being overly self-important. “I gave each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us” (Romans 12:3 NLT).

Self-importance is a dangerous drug that is both addictive and destructive. Little victories and successes, even spiritual ones, can cause us to suffer from inflated self-worth and become overly self-confident. That’s what happened to Amaziah. As king of Judah, he experienced some early successes and seemed to have the hand of God on his life. At one point he experienced a decisive victory over Edom, defeating 10,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He also defeated the stronghold of Sela, located in the city of Petra. Fresh off these convincing victories, Amaziah decides to challenge the king of Israel to a battle. He is confident and tad bit cocky. King Jehoash of Israel warns him to think about what he is doing. He compares Judah to a thistle going up against a mighty cedar tree. Not only that, but the thistle ends up getting stepped on and crushed. before it can even attack the cedar tree! But self-importance can make us self-delusional. We can begin to believe our own press clippings and think we are something really special. Which is exactly what happened to Amaziah. He refused to listen to Jehoash and went ahead with his battle plans. Rather than be content with his victory over Edom, he had to have more. He had to prove himself to himself. His self-confidence would end up being self-destructive. “King Jehoash of Israel captured Judah’s king, Amaziah son of Joash and grandson of Ahaziah, at Beth-shemesh. Then he marched to Jerusalem, where he demolished 600 feet of Jerusalem’s wall, from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate. He carried off all the gold and silver and all the articles from the Temple of the Lord. He also seized the treasures from the royal palace, along with hostages, and then returned to Samaria” (2 Kings 14:13-14 NLT).

Amaziah’s pride led to his fall and the defeat of Judah. His own self-importance became self-destructive, but also spread to those around him. The effects of self-importance and pride are rarely relegated to self alone. Others are always impacted by our own self-obsession and over-confidence. Nowhere do we read that Amaziah was instructed by God to wage war with Israel. This was his own plan, driven by his own need for self-importance. And the results were disastrous. Jerusalem was left defenseless with broken-down walls. The Temple of God was ransacked and left desecrated. Citizens were turned into slaves. The wealth of Judah became the booty of Israel. All because of one man’s self-importance and pride. If Amaziah had only listened to the wisdom of Solomon. “Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the LORD will be happy” (Proverbs 16:20 NLT). The antidote to self-importance is humility and submission to the will of God. When we begin to think we are something special, we need to remind ourselves of the reality of our own self-worth. Paul gives us sobering words to consider any time we begin to think too highly of ourselves. “Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and use them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NLT).

Father, protect me from self-importance and it’s offspring – pride. Help me remember that I am nothing without You. My value is found in Christ  alone. Self-importance is self-delusional and self-destructive. But learning to find my value and worth in Your Son reminds me that I bring nothing to the table. All my worth comes from Him and what He has done for me.  Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men